In the ORSC courses I am often asked, “What makes a good relationship.” I am cautious when I answer because I know full well that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For example, define “good.” Qualities that make a good relationship for some of my friends would send me screaming into the hills. Does good mean happy? No relationship is happy all the time. My favorite 20th anniversary card was one which said, “Thanks for 13 really great years, 4 so-so, and 3 really shitty ones!” That about sums it up in my book. We take vows “for better and worse,” but we rarely talk about “the worse” parts. As we move through the vicissitudes of our lives together there are going to be periods of great strain, losses and disappointments even in highly successful relationships. For me this is when marriage becomes interesting. I am grateful everyday for the sweet and smooth parts of my relationship, but it is the hard times that really show me my soul.
There is a term in Buddhism called “Guru Principle.” The power of a Guru is that s/he show us our mind and by seeing how our mind works we become aware. The point of Guru Principle is that anything that shows us our minds is acting as a teacher, a Guru to us. And there is no greater Guru than our relationships. Relationship truly shows us the heights and depths of our emotional capacity. Marita holds up a constant mirror to me if I am willing to look at my own mind and heart. Sometimes the view is great and I can see my own loving nature, generous with great sweetness. Other days I see pettiness and engrained resentful narratives.
In my own unscientific experience there are some ground conditions for creating and maintaining relationship . I call these the Five C’s. These are not the only important qualities, but they are part of what can build a sturdy relationship. So take them in the spirit in which they are offered, which is a lens to think about your own relationship. This blog is the first of a series on the 5 C’s which are Chemistry, Commonality, Constructive Conflict, Courtesy and Commitment.